In the footsteps of the Portuguese with Höegh Autoliners

DATE 18.10.2023

My name is Erika Fatland and I’m a Norwegian travel writer. I’m writing on my way to Santander, Spain, where a great new adventure awaits: On Friday 20th I will board Höegh Jeddah and follow the ship’s journey along the African coast all the way to Durban. After a short break, I will board another vessel, Höegh Trooper, and cross the Indian Ocean, all the way to Korea. In all, I will spend more than 50 days on the ocean.

These ocean journeys are part of the research for my upcoming book: The Navigator. A Journey through the Lost Empire of the Portuguese. The title is inspired by Henry the Navigator, a Portuguese prince who financed maritime expeditions down the African coast in the early 15th Century. During Prince Henry’s lifetime the Portuguese seafarers succeeded in sailing past the difficult Cape Bojador, on today’s Western Sahara, which hitherto had been seen as the southern limit for European sailors. After Henry the Navigator’s death, Vasco da Gama succeeded in finding the sea route to India, putting an end to Europe’s virtual isolation from distant civilizations. A new era, an era of globalization and European dominance, had begun.

The Portuguese hence founded the first oversea empire. Their far-reaching empire also turned out to be the last: Colonial rule collapsed after the Carnation Revolution overthrew the national dictatorship in 1974. Macao was returned to China as late as 1999.

As research for The Navigator I have spent the last couple of years visiting former Portuguese colonies and territories, spanning from Guinea-Bissau, Angola and Mozambique in Africa, to Goa, Malacca, East-Timor and Japan in Asia and Brazil in South-America, interviewing freedom fighters, politician and ordinary people, searching for visible and invisible traces of the Portuguese influence.

The Portuguese Empire was first and foremost a maritime empire. From the very beginning it has been my goal to include the maritime part, the wet element, in my research, and that’s why I’m boarding Höegh Jeddah on Friday. Of course, and luckily, modern vessels are much more comfortable, safer and faster than the ships of the Portuguese, but the ocean remains to a large extent the same, the distances are the same. During my time on board the Autoliners I hope to gain a bigger understanding of the endeavors of the Portuguese sailors, as well as an insight into the daily life at sea in the 21st century.

I’m grateful to Höegh for supporting my research, both through facilitating the ocean journey from Spain to Korea, and through generous financial support from the Höegh Foundation.

Follow my maritime adventure here, on Höegh Autoliner's LinkedIn and/or my Instagram page for updates from the sea journey ahead!


Erika Fatland was born in Haugesund in Norway in 1983.

She has an M.A. in social anthropology and speaks 8 languages.

Fatland is the author of a total of 7 books. She had her international breakthrough with Sovietistan (2014), which is translated to 27 languages.

Other notable woks include The Border. A Journey Around Russia (2017) and High. A Journey Across the Himalayas (2020).

On board Höegh Jeddah

27 October 2023

My Life Onboard Höegh Jeddah: Week 1

On Monday 23rd of October I finally boarded Höegh Jeddah, after a short delay due to bad weather. As a welcome gift, I got an orange coverall, a quick tour, and a security brief. Then my daily life onboard began, which, except for the abundant meals, basically consisted of sitting alone in my cabin with nothing else to do except writing.

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